Reflections on Life and Ministry

Remembering a Sacrifice

The Ocean11 Resort, on the site of the former BMM compound in Monrovia, Liberia

While preparing to leave Liberia, we made a short detour to stop at the Ocean11 resort. This property was originally given to Baptist Mid-Missions by the president of Liberia. An American missionary, Clark “Jake” Jacobson was a former Vietnam veteran and remained in Liberia when the other missionaries had evacuated because of the Liberian civil war. Jake was killed by members of the Liberian army when he refused to give them access to the facility. He died protecting the Liberian people there, including Pastor James Togba, who was our key contact while I was in the country. The Liberians in the BMM compound fled to the nearby Israeli embassy, where they were protected.

Today, the facility is owned by the Liberian churches. As you can see, it is a prime beachfront property. They have rented it out on a 99 year lease to Lebanese owned business Oceans11, who have constructed a small resort with a first class restaurant, pool and recreation facilities. The Liberians use the proceeds to fund the Jake Memorial Baptist College, named in honor of the man who gave his life for Christ and Liberia.

I don’t remember hearing about this story. As a Regular Baptist, reflections on our history often focus on what happened here in the US. It is good to remember the missionary heritage that is also part of our legacy… the sacrifices made, and lives given. We must consider the models like Jake’s we have in our past as we look to our future. Gospel ministry in’t always “safe”–but it is important to remember that when we serve we are in the hands of God. May the Lord give us people willing to suffer for the cause of Jesus Christ, who enables us to do all things in His strength (Phil. 4:13).

Change of Pace

Poor roads are common in Liberia

We traveled today to Gbargna (pronounced “bahn-gah”), which is in Bong county in northeastern Liberia. Our journey was about 121 miles We left about 7 AM and arrived after 2 PM, making several stops along the way… some planned, like a stop for souvenirs, grabbing a soft drink, a drop off of a child for school, picking up a passenger, a stop at a grocery store for supplies… and others (at least for me) not anticipated, like police checkpoints or stopping for a repair. We also had a few slowdowns going through greater Monrovia. Some were due to traffic, while others were because of very poor road conditions.

Traffic in Kataka

We went through a variety of territory, starting in the urban chaos of Monrovia, meandering through the country villages and towns before arriving at our destination. Gbargna is the fourth-largest population center in Liberia. We saw universities and colleges, open city marketplaces, rubber tree farms (Firestone Tires are a major industrial force here), and farms growing cassava and other crops.

The time passed more quickly after we cleared Monrovia and traveled on a world-class 2 lane highway funded by the UN, but I was still struck with how different time operates here. With our quality 4+ lane divided highways and generally reliable vehicles, auto travel is a completely different experience in the US than here.

Bringing rubber tree sap to process

With that said, though the trip was longer, I also found the experience more meaningful. Slower paces involve more time for interaction. We took time for prayer before leaving and engaged in constant conversation over the course of the journey. Arriving here, we found that the ABWE guest house was not what we anticipated it would be, and had to make a run for supplies, including a generator, and had to the well to pump water for bathing and such (we drink and brush our teeth with bottled water exclusively here). Most of the afternoon and evening was spent diagnosing and attempting to solve electric problems, filling tanks with natural gas for cooking, and waiting.

I’m not going to lie… I’m looking forward to a hot shower next week. I really like American roads. I will never underestimate the value of my refrigerator again. Being here makes me appreciate the bounty and prosperity we take for granted in the USA.

Life in Liberia has its appeal, though. Working through menial tasks we’ve automated in the US makes you appreciate and value the outcomes better. So many of the people I have met here are friendly and quick to converse. Their struggles and comparative deprivation leave many more open to gospel conversations.
Tomorrow morning, our group of 2 Americans and some of the Liberian leadership will be teaching 65-75 pastors from all over the country. Please pray for a successful and encouraging time for these men, and that God would use the information we give to help them improve their ministry. Also pray that I would learn from them, and their examples.

New Relationships

Parade of Conference Delegates in Caldwell/New Georgia

One expected outcome of this trip was making new friendships What I didn’t expect, I suppose, was the degree of similarities I would share with my Liberian brothers. They are quite resourceful, which you would expect in such an economically deprived country. But these men are also very persistent, and the leadership of their Associations in particular are quite determined when it comes to pursuing partnerships. It’s not surprising, some might cynically say, that they would be pursuing partnerships with people ins the US to take advantage of deeper pockets. While there are some who may ask for financial assistance, the requests I have heard have been reasonable (such as help with transportation, which looks like a small motorcycle or a bicycle). They also understand the need to go through proper channels, and Association leaders work hard to filter and prioritize those requests.

Believers from churches in Guinea

What has impressed me is how they are pursuing relationships with other Africans. This week at the conference there were believers here for the first time representing churches from the neighboring countries of Guinea and Sierra Leone. Later in the week, I was privileged to sit in on meetings with the AIBC and leaders from the Faith Independent Baptist Association, another group in Liberia started by Regular Baptist Missionaries servicing another region of the country. They are working to reestablish a joint conference between the two groups and actively collaborating on evangelistic efforts. The leaders in the AIBC are bold and forward thinking, and I have been encouraged by their commitment and enthusiasm.

Leaders from the AIBC and FIBA consider their next steps

The AFBM and the Legacy of Regular Baptist Missionaries 

Women from Maranatha Baptist Church in Monrovia prepare to feed the AFBM conference attenders.

I am in Liberia this week as a guest of the African Fundamental Baptist Mission (in the process of changing to African Independent Baptist Mission). I have the privilege of being the keynote speaker for their annual conference. This group traces its roots to churches that were started by the work of Baptist Mid- Missions missionaries. The group primarily consists of congregations from Liberia, but we also have churches from Guinea and Sierra Leone that I’ve heard are here. The AFBM is part of the Biblical Baptist Partnership International (

It’s been encouraging to see the fruit of evangelistic efforts. There are scores of churches represented, and all of them are led by national pastors. The only white skinned people here this week, in fact, are the Brittains and me. 

It’s also exciting to see how things are continuing under national leadership. ABWE is a partner agency here assisting the AFBM churches with mobile medical clinics, which they use for evangelistic efforts. They also have a school to train Physician Assistants. The program includes required Bible training.

The GARBC is seen positively here because of both past and current investment. Next week I will get to visit some churches who experienced roof damage during severe weather. The repairs were assisted by funds from Regular Baptist International.

While there may be a need for retooling and renovation ( just like there is in our US churches), I am greatly encouraged by what I am already seeing here in Liberia. God’s blessing is evident in the lives of those I am meeting here. Stories of conversions, shared videos of baptisms, men being trained and sent out to start new churches… There’s much reason to rejoice in what God is doing here.

Distance and Connection

I am typing this as I sit in a Boeing 787. It’s amazing that as I am in the air over the East Coast and getting ready to fly over the North Atlantic that I can send this post out for your perusal. Technology allows us to do so much. Today, I have sent pictures to my family, had conversations about church matters, and even reviewed my son’s creative writing paper.

Yet, as much of a blessing it is to have this connectivity, it’s not a substitute for in-person interaction. I love being able wish Jennifer a happy birthday tomorrow (Sunday). It’s a poor substitute for being there and saying it with a hug and being able to celebrate with her and the family. Technology has limits.

It’s similar to our relationship with Christ and His Church. As much as I’m looking forward to taking in the livestream tomorrow, it won’t be anywhere near as rich an experience as singing with you, praying with you, shaking your hands, hearing your voices. We can keep up connections to a degree, but we are limited.

Jesus has given us a Comforter. He’s real, and the Spirit ministers in significant ways. We have the Word, which gives us clear directions from God Himself. That doesn’t negate the superior experience we long for… He has promised that He is coming again, and that where Jesus is is where we will one day be. We are grateful for what we have, but as Paul says, to be with Christ is “far better.”

I want to see my wife, my children, my brothers and sisters at Calvary. But this longing makes me realize that I long for Someone else even more.

I stretch out my hands to you;
    my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. 

Psalm 143:6

Reflections on RBM Council Meetings

Dinner conversation at our 2023 Council of 18 Meetings

For the last 4 years now, I’ve had the privilege to serve on the Council of 18 of our church’s association. Regular Baptist Ministries has certainly seen higher peaks in its 90 year history than where it is today, but it is still a place where I feel most “at home,” doctrinally and otherwise. These are “my people.” It’s a joy to work with this group of men and see their commitment to Scripture and doctrine. They believe in the centrality of the local church and its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

At the moment, we are facing many important decisions. We are working through consideration of new leadership, after Mike Hess’ tenure as our National Representative ended unexpectedly around this time last year. How to better engage with and serve Regular Baptist congregations remains a constant priority. But what encouraged me was hearing fellow council members talk about their vision for mobilizing churches to help churches. We have ministries we partner with, agencies that help with tools… but there was recognition that we must have healthy congregations helping struggling congregations more than parachurch ministries coaching individuals if we are going to be truly useful as a network… we must not allow our Independence become a hindrance to being Interdependent.

I’m excited for the future. We are considering some organizational changes, ones I believe when implemented will help our staff and personnel be more efficient in their duties. I’m thankful for the work David Strope, a long-time pastor and former Council chairman has done in the role of Interim NR over this last year.

Pray for our fellowship: both our churches and their pastors and the personnel who faithfully serve in the ministries of RBP, Chaplaincy, Generate (our planting and revitalization efforts), and International Partnerships. I believe we have better days ahead, but only as we are faithful to the Word and the task Christ has given to His churches.